Visiting Bac Lieu…

… on July 24, 2010, particularly Tay Say Church.

Father Francisco Truong Buu Diep is a well known figure amongst Catholics and non-Catholics in Vietnam. Every year, thousands of people from all faiths come to the Tac Say Church to pay this Vietnamese martyr respect and make offerings.

Father Diep was born in 1897 and ordained priest in Phnom Peng (Cambodia) in 1924. He returned to Vietnam to teach at a local seminary and serve as a pastor at Tac Say parish 16 years. During his ministry, he founded many parishes within the surrounding areas and helped many poor people regardless of their background.

After World War II, the Viet Minh forces (Communists) came down hard on Catholics, forcing many people flee for their lives. Father Diep refused to leave saying, “I live among my flock and I will die among them. I will not go anywhere.” He was caught by the Viet Minh on March 12, 1946 alongside 70 (some people report 30) Catholics. Held in a rice paddy warehouse, he was said to have given up his life in order to save those he had been captured with from being burnt alive. Beheaded, his body was later found in a nearby pond, although Vietnamese authorities have never confirmed the identity of his murderers.

Tac Say Parish has since been rebuilt. The compounds have been expanded in the last five years, especially in response to pilgrimage popularity. Father Diep’s tomb itself was recently completed restorations this past March.

Many people believe this man to be responsible for healing ailments and blessing people with prosperity and good fortune. Pilgrims from all over come just to see and touch his tomb as well as gift offerings of incense, food, money and prayers.

Although my dad’s side of the family is Buddhist, they enthusiastically suggested we pay Tac Say a visit. My uncle (Chet Quang) rented a 16-seat van that day and the 4 of us were accompanied by: Chet Quang, his wife and 2 kids (Thanh and Khoa), Be Min’s wife, their daughter in law (So Nhu) and her daughter (Tran), Chet Vu’s son (Cuoi) and Chet Hien’s daughter (Phuong).

On the way home we stopped at Nha Hang Cong Tu Bac Lieu (Prince of Bac Lieu Restaurant) to have lunch. The Prince of Bac Lieu, rich boy whose real name was Tran Trinh Huy, was known for spending money like water well into his adulthood . His parents were the richest people in the Mekong Delta region during the French Indochina. He’s been said to have flaunted his wealth in the most ridiculous of ways such as burning paper money to cook, burning paper money to look for items in the dark, travelling alone with 5 richshaws, etc. The food was pretty delicious and we followed that with a short tour of the Prince of Bac Lieu’s house and bought some souvenirs.

We stopped by Cho Bac Lieu (Bac Lieu Market) which was pretty similar to Cho Ben Thanh (Ben Thanh Market) where a large one room building is completely filled with small stands/stores and people grab at you wherever you go, telling you to by their merchandise. The kids were prettyyy bored, and we couldn’t stand around either because people will yell at you if you stand in front of their shops and not buy anything. So we had to keep walking, and keep walking, and… it was pretty hot. So sad! Haha

On the way back we stopped in Soc Trang (town about 65km away from Phung Hiep) to have dinner. We also briefly visited a hospital in Soc Trang to say hello to Cau Phuong (Ong Ba Bay’s son). If you remember, previously we stopped by Ong Ba Bay’s house but they weren’t home. Turned out it was because this son had taken them out to Nha Trang for a little vacation!

And… finally reached home in the late evening!

Photos from that day
(Hover for captions, click for larger… you know the drill)

Rain finally ends and we head over to our next destination, Prince Bac Lieu Restaurant

Continuation of NHA TRANG – DALAT TOUR…

… picking up from July 18, 2010 (10:30pm local time, 11:30amĀ EST)

I awoke the following morning (July 19) feeling much better joining my family along with Chet Em and Kan for early breakfast at the hotel. The buffet selection was a bit disheartening, I expected much more from a 4 star hotel. With a weak stomach, it didn’t really matter for me I guess…

After breakfast, we met up with our driver and tour guide to head out to Thien Vien Truc Lam (Truc Lam Monastery), the largest one in Vietnam located just outside the centre of Da Lat. Unfortunately, we were not there long enough to fully see and appreciate the beauty of these vast grounds. The view of Tuyen Lam Lake, however, was beautiful and you could also see Nui Voi (Elephant Mountain) in the distance. The mountain received its name due to its resemblance to an elephant head.

We then moved on to visit Dinh Bao Dai, home of the last (13th) emperor of Vietnam. Like many figures of power, Emperor Bao Dai has an interesting history of his own which we became quite familiar with by the end of the tour. Some points include:

  • Many years of his childhood were spent in France, where he also received his education. For this reason, many people believed that when he ascended to the throne, he was a puppet for French colonial interests.
  • He married a most beautiful woman widely known as Empress Nam Phuong. Together they had 5 children – 2 sons and 3 daughters.
  • Unlike many who deter from the ‘unlucky’ number 13, Emperor Bao Dai had a close relationship with 13. He was born in 1913. He ascended to the throne at the age of 13. He was the 13th and last emperor of feudal VN. He ruled the country for 13 years. He had 13 children. During his burial, a sudden downpour occured causing a delay until he was buried at 13:00 hours. There are a few more which I can’t remember at this moment.

After these 2 visits, we stopped for lunch at Mountain Town Restaurant and then headed back to the hotel for some free time/rest. At this point I was feeling sick again and eventually spent the rest of the day at the hotel while the rest of my family went out.

Unfortunately, very few pictures and videos were taken during the afternoon/evening of June 19th so I don’t have much to report.

The family did go visit khu du lich Doi Mong Mo (Mong Mo Hill Reservation), a link to read up about the place.

They also went to visit Da Lat Su Quan (Da Lat Historical Village) that presented beautiful hand embroidered paintings.

The following day, July 20th, we checked out of La Sapinette Hotel after breakfast and began our journey back to Saigon. On the way, we stopped at Thac Datanla (Datanla Falls) to visit some of Da Lat’s waterfalls. Although the view was less than spectacular, I especially enjoyed this stop due to its unique mode of transportation. Instead of travelling by foot down to the waterfalls, visitors can ride in toboggans/cars on rails (30 000 VND/person, almost $2). Self propelled by gravity where you control the speed (max. about 40km/hr), the 1 km long ride down was quite fun with amazing views.

A little while later we were back on the road. Stopped for lunch at Trung Tam Dung Chan Tam Chau – Loc An, a shopping centre/restaurant owned by famous tea and coffee company called Tam Chau. We filled out ballots for the TST Tourist company draw. The prizes? Ipads and MacBooks… please let me win. Hah, I doubt it. Also picked up a bunch of souvenir treats.. mm tasty!

Da Lat is such a charming city – full of colour splashes from the huge variety of flowers that thrive in Da Lat’s ideal temperature, beautiful waterfalls within the surrounding area and well preserved Parisian architecture. I would love to one day go back and further explore the city.

We got back to Saigon in early evening and stayed at Cau Bao’s residence at Intercontinental Hotel. His place is ballerrr! We headed back to Phung Hiep the next day, early afternoon (July 21) because our Ba Coc’s (Great grandmother, dad’s dad’s mom) death anniversary was on the 22nd and we had to be there to celebrate.

After breakfast at Pho 24, followed by a little stroll and some shopping, we were picked up and headed back home. Took about 4.5 hours I think!

A handful of pictures from out Da Lat leg of the tour:
(Hover for captions, click for larger)

Photos from Thien Vien Truc Lam

Small sample of pictures from Dinh Bao Dai. My sister finally got to ride a horse, she was pretty happy about that…

Pictures from Datanla Falls

Eating at Tam Chau – An Loc

Our home in Saigon

The morning we went back to Phung Hiep